Every Person is a Star

And we need to create a galaxy of relationships around us to thrive professionally and personally

by Carole Dean

All of us need to realize that personal relationships are vital to us, just like the air we breathe. We really need friends, companions, and people with whom we can share our lives.

relationships

This is especially important for filmmakers. People in our industry can be a great source of growth and support for us.  By forging meaningful relationships, we can strengthen ourselves in the process as well as enriching and empowering one another.

When we open up, people respond and accept us.

When this happens, every contact becomes meaningful.

One way to do this is to start thinking that “every person is a star.” because every person is unique. No matter who they are or what their status is we need to give them the respect they deserve. We need to see beyond what people see in themselves because everyone has this seed of greatness.

This power is transformative. Once you start treating every person as a star, wonderful things happen to you. If someone provokes you who you do not enjoy being around,  just turn it around and look at them as if they are a ray of sunshine. You can change.  When you change it will surprise you how much this will improve your relationship.

See the greatness in each person.

If you recognize people as worthy of respect and respond them accordingly, you empower people by seeing the greatness in them.

When you adopt this attitude, you will develop some meaningful relationships with everyone you meet, and it will enrich both you and the other person.

Please remember this and next time someone does something unpleasant to you.  Start asking what kind of pain they might be in? Maybe they’ve been through a loss and are having difficulties in their lives.

You want to be kind to everyone.  You can change a relationship with someone by changing your attitude and your thoughts towards that person.

I know this can be done. You need to start thinking of them as wonderful people no matter how they talk to you.  Even if they were rude to you, this can overcome their rudeness when you see them as human beings with flaws and realizing they deserve respect and consideration.

Keep being nice and smiling to them and watch them change towards you.  You can also do this as you meditate.  Send them love, they will feel it.

Change your thoughts toward people.

What happens is that as you change your thoughts towards people, then people change towards you. I have seen this happen. I know it is possible and it certainly makes for a better life especially when you need to work with or be associated with someone that is not pleasant to be around.

Making friends in our industry and keeping them is important for you to create the future you want. Everyone you meet, no matter where they are in the film industry from the lowest job, you want to treat them as “special people” and stay connected to them.

When I started in the business, I did not know one person and I knew nothing about motion picture film.

It was the lab people, the Kodak people, the filmmakers themselves that educated me.  I kept my friendships through the years with many of the people I met at the beginning of my career. This is something you can look forward to.

Make an effort to meet the people you want to know.

Being from Dallas, on a trip back home, I made a special effort to meet the Kodak Rep and we really got along well.  I kept up my friendship with short phone calls about things of interest in the film industry.  He seemed to love the fact that I highly respected him and would ask him technical questions.  He was an engineer and Kodak had him selling film!

As luck would have it, he was made manager for the Los Angeles office which was right across the street from my company in Hollywood.

I continued my friendship with him until he retired. That was nice to be able to call Kodak and go straight through to the top man.

We are all in this business alone, together. One night at one of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers formal dinners, a producer explained to me how people get into the industry and stay.

He said, “In this entertainment industry, what you find is that people may move from one company to another but once they get into film industry and love it, they stay.”

So, the person you met in film school could end up being an acquisitions person for Netflix. So, keep up with all your contacts. 

Your P.A. today could be running a studio in a decade.

As a matter of fact, I have a good story on just that. There are two women who were making a multipart story for Netflix, and they hired someone from a major film university like Columbia to be a producer for them.   This man had to moved to another city to take the job. And after a few months they fired him without notice.

He never knew why he was fired; he was never given any reason. It was about two years later when he graduated from this prestigious film school that Netflix picked him up as an acquisition manager.

He then became the person these two producers had to talk to when they wanted to do the second series. He said he loved it when they came to him to pitch this new series.

So, be aware that you have no idea where your second assistant cameraman will be in three years. He could be working at as a director of photography on Academy Award films.  I think this is one of the perks of working in the industry.

Keep your friends up close and personal.

Be sure that you wish them happy birthday and are always there at holidays.

This is one of the things Tom Malloy covers in the first part of our Intentional Filmmaking class.  Meeting people, saving their information, and creating your database of friends in the industry is important. 

He built his career on casual meetings at events, conventions, and festivals.  These friends have helped him make 18 films.

Finding, keeping, and nurturing people in the industry is very important. It is one of the best parts of the industry. Friendships in the film industry are a true blessing.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits

 

Tom Malloy, a Current-Day Cassavetes

Talented actor, producer, shares how what he learned in those roles helped him with directing his first film

by Carole Dean

Tom Malloy has raised over $25 million in private equity for films.  He has produced 17Tom Malloy films.  Ask Me to Dance, his last film, was his directing debut. He’s written 30+ screenplays and optioned, sold, or made into movies 24 of those screenplays. 

Tom is also the President and co-owner of Glass House Distribution, a sales and distribution company, that now represents close to 100 films.  He Co-Owns FilmmakingStuff.com, one of the most popular film blogs online.  His book Bankroll, 2nd edition: A New Approach to Financing Feature Films was the gold standard book on film financing.

Guest host Heather Lenz interviewed Tom Malloy on From the Heart’s The Art of Film Funding Podcast asking for advice on filmmaking and financing. This is an excerpt of that interview.

Advice on Moving from Producer to Director

Tom Malloy believes that producing a few films before you direct will make you a stronger director. He directed his first film after being in the industry for twenty years.  The experience he’s had writing, producing, and acting gave him confidence to move to director.  He says his strength is working with actors, timing, and dialogue. He remembers Ron Howard as saying, when the script is great and the actors are great, then the film directs itself and he found this to be true.

It is good to know where your weakness is, Tom suggests.  Hire the best people to support you in this area.  For Tom, lighting and cinematography were two things he did not want to focus on.  So for his first feature, Ask Me to Dance, he made a point to hire a great DP, Pascal Combes-Knoke.

His actors enjoyed working with him. Tom said, “when the actors knew their lines and nailed their characters, it made his directing job so much easier. He said, “These actors were happy to be there because I let them play and I gave them the space to bring their A game.”

Is it a Challenge to Act in a Movie You are Directing?

“When I first wrote the film,” Tom said, “I thought of writing a role for myself. But that was before I decided to direct the film.  Once I made the decision to direct then I decided to start casting first. I began to look for a female lead. We found Briana Evigan, the star of the Step Up movies. She had a dance fan base and she’s a great dancer and a very funny actress.

“We had submissions for the role that I ended up playing, but there was a four-pronged need that we couldn’t match up. This actor had to be funny, and they had to be a good dancer.  That narrowed the field. Then you had to have some name value.

“So, now if we found these traits, then we had to have someone that would do it for our budget. At this point in the film, our budget was committed to the other stars. We had Mario Cantone, from Sex in the City, Joyce Dewitt, from Three’s Company, Catherine Mary Stewart, and Kurt Angle, plus many more great actor/dancers.

“We didn’t have much left in the budget for that role. I was the only one that filled all the boxes and would do it for this low budget. This was one of the specific challenges that we overcame.

“As far as acting and directing I filled that weakness with David Josh Lawrence, who works for my Glass House Distribution Company as head of acquisitions. He’s also an actor. He functioned as a second unit director and was my eyes and ears when I was on camera. He helped by whispering tips on how it looked.”

Tips for Indie Filmmakers

“I think that on a general note,” Tom advised, “partnering with people that are very experienced and good at what they do is smart.   It’s much better than partnering with friends. You should consider never working with a friend unless their talent exceeds the friendship or at least is equal to the friendship.”

“When you start a film, you have this idea in your head.  You write your screenplay and you get it to the point where you start adding people.  You find the perfect team, then you shoot. And when you’re shooting, there can be over 50 people on set.”  (During Ask me to Dance at one point he had 70 extras.)

“You put everything together and then it’s over. Now it’s back to just you plus the editor, plus the post supervisor.  You might have a colorist, you might have a composer, all these people, but you’re the main person, especially if you’re a director. You want to be one of those ‘roll up your sleeves and finish till the end directors.”

Tips on the Editing Process

“I would say try to find an editor who you trust. In this film, we have Frank Reynolds who is a long- time friend.  He edited one film that got nominated for best picture called In the Bedroom. He worked with me on my movie, The Alphabet Killer years ago. And he is also a kind of a ‘fireman editor’ for me that I bring in to touch up a movie for one week and fix it. You want to work with the best people in that regard.

“Another tip, I would say not to make decisions too quickly. Don’t just jump into something, take time to make the best decision on what’s going to be best for your movie.  When people are referred to you, say, ‘let me consider.’  Always be thinking of what’s best for the film.

“We had had some development financing, which I highly recommend people consider. I have a course that I teach on filmmakingstuffHQ.com called Funded Development (https://www.filmmakingstuffhq.com/development-financing-info/).

“It’s about raising a small portion of the money that you use to develop the movie, meaning, get a casting director on, get the legal paperwork done and push it forward to the next level. That’s what we did on this one.”

Any Tips on Financing Indie Films?

“The actual finance of this movie came from a new business partner of mine. Giving specific tips, I’ll just say that people who happened to be in the crypto (currency) space seem to be gamblers in a way. In my career, there’s always been different people that I went to for financing.

“I remember when online poker was hot, you could get these poker players that were worth millions to invest in movies. And I’ll just say that crypto is kind of the new poker because there’s so much money. People that just invested a thousand dollars in 2011 are now multimillionaires in crypto.

“With all investors, no matter what you’re raising, a hundred thousand dollars or $5 million, it takes a lot of work and time to get them attached to you and for them to trust you. Ultimately the best tip that I can ever give to anybody trying to get financing, no matter where you’re going, is stay focused on the project. This project was so smart, and we just kept adding more and more value, then it became irresistible.

“I’ve always said that development and prepping the project where you are adding more value is most important to financing. If you’re stuck and you can’t find any funding, keep adding more value, whether it’s cast, or locations or crew positions and always with people who are smart and talented. Just keep adding all of that to the project. Then sooner or later, it just becomes a financially viable project.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits

Going Global: Delivering Film “Content with a Purpose”

Liquid Media’s iINDIEFLIX takes films from the single classroom viewing to over 10,000 screenings world-wide

by Carole Dean

Ronald Thomson is not resting on a successful legacy of experience in growing companies and securing capital in the global media entertainment and technology sectors. As CEO of Liquid Media Group Ltd. (NASDAQ: YVR), Ron oversees a business solutions company for the entertainment industry, empowering independent creators of professional video content and their intellectual property (IP).

Liquid Media Group’s end to end solution enables independent, professional video, film, and TV packaging, financing, delivery, and monetization. It empowers indie IP creators to take their professional content from inception through the entire process to monetization.

IndieFlix

In developing its end-to-end solution, Liquid has made a number of recent partnership and acquisition moves and is building a platform for creators to reach an audience of approximately a billion households worldwide. Of note, Liquid has acquired iNDIEFLIX Group Inc., a business-to-consumer (B2C) global, streaming, and business-to-business (B2B) virtual community screening service that delivers content with a purpose to schools, government, institutions, and corporations.

Recently, I interviewed Ron as well as iNDIEFLIX co-founder and CEO Scilla Andreen on my “The Art of Film Funding Podcast “on their future plans. This was just days after Liquid completed the acquisition of iNDIEFLIX, as well as had its industry unveiling during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Passion and Need Created the Education Division

Scilla is an award-winning producer, director, author and co-founder of iNDIEFLIX. This subscription screening service delivers content to schools and corporations. iNDIEFLIX has been evolving into a global ‘edutainment’ streaming service that creates, promotes and supports social impact films to create positive change in the world.

To this end, Scilla continues to grow the library, which is currently at 4,000 plus titles to represent shorts, features, documentaries, and series from independent filmmakers from all over the world and include diverse voices, marginalized communities, and women.

What led Scilla to found “iNDIEFLIX Education,” an arm of iNDIEFLIX Group Inc. was her involvement with a documentary about bullying. She personally related to this issue.

Growing up and being the only child of color in an all-white community, she experienced a lot of bullying. She helped complete the film and, because of the content, decided to screen this film to her child’s sixth and seventh grade class. It had a transformative effect at that school in understanding how bullying impacts lives, leading to more meaningful discussion and resulting action taken to address it.

This was the beginning of her iNDIEFLIX education division. Screening for schools became a mission for Scilla to bring people together. And it grew. When school representatives began saying, “What else have you got?,” she did another film called, “The Empowerment Project” and learned how to create companion materials. Today, Scilla creates discussion guides, tip sheets, marketing materials, and activity guides for their films.

“I knew that there were children dying by suicide and schools in desperate need of a tool to communicate,” Scilla said about her growing involvement with supplying films for schools, “or some way to address mental health challenges and to help their students, educators and families.

“I took our first mental health film “Angst” abroad and that film has gone on to do over 10,000 screenings in 90 countries.”

Getting Your Films to the Right Audience

Now, Scilla wants movies that can do not hundreds, but thousands of screenings a year. What she loves about iNDIEFLIX’s acquisition by Liquid Media Group is that her company will have the resources to build and deliver hybrid products that are in-person and virtual, to meet the school’s needs.

IndieFlix

Ronald W. Thomson of Liquid Media Group and Scilla Andreen of iNDIEFLIX

Scilla said that their mental health films are also being screened by large corporations like Microsoft, Liberty Mutual, HP, Starbucks, and Goldman Sachs. She is working with Fortune 500 companies to provide more than just screenings. “We are creating corporate programming,” she says, “that they can give to their employees for two years to watch with their families.”

“Learning to be a good listener will enable you to get informed, and you learn what people in communities need,” she tells me is one of her key rules for identifying content to provide.

Scilla is working hard to put together some white papers in schools that have shown her films. With her help, they have evolved to creating clubs, groups, and parent forums to educate and address mental health and bullying from a host of different angles.

IndieFlix Group is Looking for Content with Global Topics!

Scilla is on the hunt to acquire more content.  She is seeking to satisfy the demand for her films from her list of schools and corporations who watch her films and participate in the activities. She likes to think globally and is looking for films that have globally universal topics. 

“We are looking for films that inform people so they can have more awareness and connection. Films that hold up a mirror and give you a picture of what’s happening in our world.

“I’m doing something that nobody quite understands because it’s not sexy. We can measure the eyeballs and the impact on people from our surveys. These surveys inform us how to create more products around an existing story to continue to give it that evergreen light.

“I want to teach other filmmakers to do that. You don’t want to risk everything on one movie and think you’ve only got one box office weekend to make your investment back.”

Scilla’s Office Nickname is “Fortune Cookie”

Around iNDIEFLIX, Scilla is called “Fortune Cookie.”  She says she tends to, “look at the world and find opportunities and gifts in every situation.  That’s where we want to put our energy.”

Scilla believes the distribution of a film is a marathon.

“You can make a living creating these products because you believe in an issue which has that conversation. People can engage with it. You don’t just have a baby and walk away; you help raise it.

“And your kids are still your kids, even when they’re 40 and 50 years old. So, I advocate getting out of the ‘flash-in-the-pan-disposable-art concept.’

“Let’s be more intentional with our films and savor it and monetize them.”

Full information on iNDIEFLIX is found at www.indieflix.com.  More about Liquid Media is available at www.LiquidMediaGroup.co.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Trailer Tips

Bill Woolery, the editor behind the trailers for such films as “ET” and “The Usual Suspects”, was known as “The Trailer Specialist.” 

This blog was written for us by Bill when he was a donor to the Roy W. Dean Grant. In this, he offered his advice on documentary trailer editing drawn from his 25 years of experience. He also wrote a chapter in Carole Dean’s book, “The Art of Film Funding.”

by Bill Woolery – Guest Contributor

In the complex business of getting your documentary funded and distributed, having a dynamic, well-edited video promo has become a critical element in a successful strategy.  But often when the producer/editor turns his attention to creating this kind of trailer, the results can be less than satisfactory. 

Why?  Because long-format pieces and trailers are two completely separate video realities.  Each has its own rhythm and energy; each uses a different language to express the same emotions.  Editing a documentary benefits from a well-developed, logical Left Brain …while trailer editing is much more a Right Brain exercise.  Structurally existing in different worlds they nevertheless are both true and faithful to the concept and the heart of the overall project. 

Trailers for documentaries are used in two ways.  One format’s goal is to impress funding entities with the importance of the project and the value of contributing to it.  In this case, the editor takes whatever footage is available and attempts to recreate the theme and quality of “whole picture.”  The other trailer format is created from the completed documentary and is used to showcase it to potential distributors, broadcasters & home video releasing companies. 

RHYTHMN & PACING 

You’ve worked hard and are satisfied with the pace and rhythm you built into your doc. This is surely an asset that you want to preserve in the trailer, yes?  No!  Taking various chucks from your doc and assembling them into a promo without totally rethinking the editing will produce a clumsy, ineffective result.  Individual & overlapping arcs, the “build” in momentum, the emotional “gear changes” that characterize a great trailer have little in common with the corresponding elements in the full-length piece. 

Yes, the trailer will try to cover all the salient points and emotions it can, but the way that these play off each other and contribute to the whole requires a different construction.  True, the trailer may be 50 or more minutes shorter than the doc, but if it’s a great cut nothing will be “lost” from the integrity of the full piece.

VOICE OVER 

Few things will reduce the impact of a trailer more than the use of an amateur Voice Over

A RULE THAT NEVER FAILS  

LET THE MATERIAL LEAD YOU.

“We’re thinking it should be 3 minutes,” I sometimes hear. “Does that sound right to you?”  In theory, yes.  But, as the cut begins to hone down into a solid form, the intrinsic qualities of the material become the determining factor in these kinds of decisions. 

In the trailer mind-set, you’ll find that the material will “tell” when it’s been on the screen long enough.  It will tell you when you’ve revealed too much of it, or if you need to add a bit of setup so that it can “speak” more clearly.  It will tell you if the music cue is wrong.  I usually like to build a long sequence first and then allow the scenes to tell me which of them are superfluous and which should remain in the cut.

“BUT WE ALREADY PAID FOR THIS MUSIC” 

In scoring your doc you’ve probably made many choices using music sensitively and episodically.  But music in a trailer runs continuously -with rare exceptions for dramatic pauses.  It must have momentum, a pulse that propels the trailer (either strongly or gently) from top to bottom.  If your doc already has such a cue, you’re in luck.  If it doesn’t, there’s little alternative to finding a new cue.  You could also ask your composer to create faster tempo versions of the existing cues. 

If you use several cues in the trailer always start with the slowest tempo first and proceed with quicker and quicker ones.  This rule can be broken …but the only exceptions I’ve encountered were due to unusual circumstances, say when the trailer has to end on a tragic note that follows a more active and expositional middle section.  It’s not a particularly good idea to end a trailer tragically.  No need to devise a “happy” ending, but it’s a better choice to leave it open ended with a bit of mystery about the people and the outcome.

 MAKE SURE IT ENDS 

Avoid a slow music fade out at the end.  Yes, your doc may have a beautifully constructed, delicate ending that leaves the viewer in tears.  Your trailer can also invoke a similar poignancy …but it must have a definitive ending.  Why?  The viewer may leave your doc a changed person, pondering a new awareness. 

But when the trailer ends, he or she needs to be thinking, “Hmm, I really want to see that.”  That’s the “new awareness” you want to create here.  This need not be seen as a “selling out” or a commercializing of your project.  It’s just the way a trailer has to work.  A good trailer cut will not compromise the integrity to your project.

 AN EDIT ROOM SECRET 

Invite the clients to sit down the first time they view the trailer cut on the monitor.  A standing person can be uncomfortable and will perceive the cut to be longer than one who is sitting.  Whenever I hear, “It feels just a bit too long,” it’s always from the person standing. 

Cinematographers to Directors: “Be Prepared”

When Jacqui Frost asked DP’s what they wanted out of their directors, they all had the same answer

by Carole Dean

In my ongoing search for educational information for filmmakers, I recently interviewed Jacqui Frost who is a full professor in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts at California State Fullerton. Jacqui has taught cinematography, documentary production, advanced motion picture production, the language of film and many other production courses. She’s been a producer and cinematographer for over 30 years.

cinematographers

Cinematographer, Professor, and Author Jacqui Frost

She is also the author of Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration.  She joined me on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast and I was impressed with her knowledge of filmmaking and cinematography.   While writing this book, she interviewed our top cinematographers.  She asked each one what they want their directors to bring them to understand the vision of their film.

It was amazing that all the cinematographers said the same answer, “they want their directors to be prepared.” Basically, the cinematographer wants to know what the director intends to say with this film and how they want to say it.

A Picture is Worth an Incredible Scene

She shared with me that Spike Lee would get prints of films and project them in a screening room. He would take the cinematographer to the theater and show the film while pointing out what he wanted in a visual style and a visual look.

Sometimes director’s use fine arts photography to communicate a particular look with the cinematographer.   She said that if you look at a Dorothea Lange photograph, you can find a still from the film Grapes of Wrath that will match. In fact, you would think they were stills from the same photographer.  Road to Perdition was photographed by Conrad Hall for Sam Mendes and he used the artist Edward Hopper as a reference.

John Seale worked with Peter Weir on Witness.  Before they began filming, Peter took his DP to the museum, and they looked at Vermeer paintings.  Peter told him, “I want the light to come from the left like that.” John said, “I can do that.”  Think back in your mind and see if you can remember the scene in the film where the boy is looking into a glass cabinet of pictures.  He then points out the killer who is a man pictured inside the glass cabinet in the police station. That’s a pivotal moment in the film and the lighting in the scene was just like the lighting in the Vermeer painting.

Some directors want high contrast in their images, so they go to Georges de La Tour, a French Baroque painter, for the candlelight low-key source. They also use Rembrandt who is often on the directors list. Some like Andrew Wyatt for a realistic look.

Matching the Director’s Vision

This is what cinematographers want their directors do, to clearly show them the look of the film. They want them to show them the color and the emotion they want to emit from the audience. They want directors to use things that they can visually connect with like movies or paintings or still photography.

Jackie says when a director of photography reads a script, they have a lot of notes for their first meeting with the director.  They want to impart to the director their vision for the film. Then, during discussions, the cinematographer will sit and listen to what the director says before he shares what he saw as the vision for the film.  Then the cinematographer knows if he’s got the vision right or not.

Secret of a Good Relationship

Most directors have a team. It’s not just the director of photography it’s usually the cameraman and the assistant cameraman.  These three usually work together.

Jackie said that not every director knows everything about cinematography. There are some cinematographers who would prefer a director to focus on their vision and deal with the actors. These directors often let the cinematographer choose the lenses.  Jacqui thinks directors should know what the different lenses are and what they can do.

The secret to a great relationship between the director of photography and the director of the film is good communication. These two should be collaborating to create the director’s vision.

Making a Connection

I asked Jacqui, “How do you choose a cinematographer?” Is there a list of questions you can give us?  How do you make the decision that this is the person you want to work with?

Jackie said first look at their reels.  If that reel speaks to you visually, you may want to talk to them.  Then you can determine if you believe you can connect with them as a person. She says the conversation should be, “I want to have this theme in the film. So, how can we create that visually and represent my vision on the screen through your cinematography?”

Jackie says that directors should know about lenses because they are a storytelling tool. You need to know what a long lens gives you versus what a wide angle gives you. You need to ask this question; do we want to focus on the actors or the actors and the scenery?

Creating a Mood with Color

I love to talk about the color palette of the film. This is one of the most powerful storytelling devices that the cinematographer has because humans are so emotionally affected by color. With color films, you can set a mood quickly with the right color. This is when your cinematographer becomes a genius with lighting. And of course, they get help from the color correction artist who comes in during post and your set director.

The director might say I see the color palette in this scene for this character to be slightly desaturated because their world is kind of grim. I might want a strong color and much more saturation when you go to the memory that he shares with another person.

You want to use that when you create your look book.  That gives the cinematographer an idea of what you want to do. Jackie says you may want your production designer in your conversation about color and what the color scheme will be. Perhaps it’s blue and orange like you see in Michael Mann’s films or very dark and soft lighting like you see in David Fincher. There are different ways you can go with creating a mood with your color.  You can see each character perhaps having a different color palette.

Jacqui Frost knows her films and her filmmaking.  I highly recommend this incredible book. It will certainly teach you how to communicate with your cinemaphotographer.  Please also check out her newest book Conversations with Contemporary Cinematographers: The Eye Behind the Lens now available on Amazon.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Puzzle Theory: A New Way to Attach and Connect with Your Audience

By Carole Dean

A technologist, a linguist, and a cognitive psychologist. Ina Sofia Kalo is also the creator of Puzzle Theory (PT) for independent filmmakers.  Developed by Ina over two years, Puzzle Theory is an exciting tool for independent filmmakers.  With it, Ina has created a way for filmmakers to attach to their audience while making their film.   As you know, finding and engaging your audience early is important because many of them will fund your film. 

“Less than one percent of films reach a distributor via film festivals.” Ina shared with me in a recent interview on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast.  “However, let’s say you get a distributor, their goal is to spend lots of money for PR and marketing, recoup their expenses, make some profit and then quickly move to the next film because you’re already an old product.  I think the entire system has become completely unsustainable.

“I wanted to build a humane technological system, which allows for real deep, meaningful human engagement, the way humans truly engage over time with ups and downs, with multiple points of connection, with inspiration and curiosity.”

How Puzzle Theory Works

“You or your production company can register a film at any stage of production,” Ina explained. “It can be any genre. Our categories are fiction, documentary, TV series or animation. You build your own page. It will have your unique URL and you can post the link anywhere.

“You have different modules that give information about you, you but basically you start curating your film using storyline. You combine original pictures and video or production shots and video with hand selected content from your existing social media accounts and pages.

“Using our proprietary technology, you can tag and extract any information from current content of your existing social media. We give you the tools to hand select only the most special pieces that you want to include with the making of your storyline.”

Build it Like a Puzzle

Perhaps you start with a shot of your first day of shooting. Then, you have that one Facebook post that you selected because this post is the one that people love and you had the most response.  Or include what everyone thought was very funny, put that in. Then you have let’s say some video that you produced, put that in. You have Instagram that you want to post, perhaps something on your lead actress.

What you are doing is putting different social media views about your production, and information on your crew and your storyline in one place in a timeline. This can be your most valuable promotional asset. It will be one coherent narrative that can be accessed at any time, and even after the film is completed it can stay online for a small $38.00 fee per year.

How Puzzle Theory Can Benefit Filmmakers

Ina told me a story about a Swedish filmmaker who entered a Film Festival. When the festival asked him to send his materials, they expected to get a one sheet, a bio, etc. Instead, he sent them his Puzzle Theory that he’d created.

The organizers of the Film Festival were shocked. They called to talk to him about what he was doing because he had over 75,000 people who were watching the making of his film and they were in 12 different countries! The Film Festival was impressed and excited because he knew his audience and he was in constant contact with them. This gives you an idea of what you can do with Puzzle Theory.

Connecting and Finding an Audience When You Start Developing Your Film

Ina says people connect to ups and downs, to blood, sweat and tears, to real human moments way more than a packaged product. So, they are getting a look at the backstory of the film that brought you to where you are now.  They feel connected and if they like the subject materials in your film, they are even more connected to you.

You can share the link to your film page with anyone over the world or people can search for your film on Puzzle Theory. You can also keep your film page private and share only a private link. This is up to you.

People may find you from being on PT where they can search by genera and find your film.  PT is used by distributors to see what is being made.  People share this link all over the world and you may have people find you from around the world.  You can keep it private until you want to open it up to the world.  This is up to you.

By posting often people can see your movement with the film.  They can log on to PT day or night.  Since we know the average time to make a documentary is six years and a feature is from 3 to 8 years you will have an interesting story history for your audience to connect with you.

You can link your PT information to your crowdfunding page.  This way people can see the entire story of making the film and the inside information long after donating.

How to Get Puzzle Theory

At this point Puzzle Theory is by invite only.  Ina is checking content and does not want violent films or nudity.   She has a brilliant website and best of all she has a question and answer session monthly.  You can find that on her site and get to hear her personally. 

She is most enthusiastic about this brainchild of hers and rightfully so.  This can be a major asset for you in your Public Relations, Marketing and Distribution.  This is a place that you can proudly sit back and look at what you have achieved.

You can hear the entire interview here and get more specific information and costs. https://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-art-of-film-funding/2021/03/10/puzzle-theory-is-the-answer-to-marketing-distribution-for-indie-filmmakers

Contact for Ina and PT is contact@puzzletheory.com

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Connecting to Your Higher Self

How to Find and Listen to That Little Voice Inside You to Eliminate Negativity, Stress, and Allow Your Creativity to Flourish

by Carole Dean

Every other Saturday at 10 am we have Film Funding Class for our fiscally sponsored filmmakers.  These are some of the kindest people in the world, intent on educating themselves and moving their films forward.  They allow me to share books with them on the power of our minds.

Quantum Spirituality

Some days I get on a roll and I don’t want to stop. I work too hard and end up exhausted.  After reading Amit’s work, I intend to recognize when my energy is getting depleted. I will immediately stop, meditate and take my vitamin C.

 

This week we are studying Quantum Spirituality by Amit Goswami.  There is a wealth of information in it aimed at moving you to a higher consciousness and improving your ability as a filmmaker.

From the massive amount of exercises and information Amit has in this book, you might want to read only one chapter a week and integrate that into your life.  Perhaps you could take a year of reading and integrating.  With this approach, you could become a much more enlightened being with a better understanding of your incredible human potential.

I highly recommend Quantum Spirituality.  Here are some of the highlights that will help you thrive in life and your filmmaking career.  

Realizing a Transformational Journey

Amit tells us about setting the stage for a transformational journey. He talks about the chakras and their importance.  He shows us where, via a map, they are located on our body.

“The brow chakra: the initial vital function is rational thinking for which the organ is the prefrontal cortex, right at the back of the forehead. The associated feelings are clarity of understanding when the energy moves in, and confusion with depletion of energy.”   

This is very important for filmmakers to know.  Filmmakers work long hard hours and often hit this depletion of energy.  One thing that can help you is to find a quiet spot to meditate for 20 minutes and get back on track. 

They say 20 minutes of meditating is like one hour of sleep for the rest it gives your body.  Dr. Linus Pauling said Vitamin C is a healer and that it helps clear your mind you when you get tired.  It has been proven that people do better with tests and under stress after taking vitamin C.

Amit goes on to say, “With further opening, this brow chakra is the one that funnels the intuitive energy associated with the archetypes that are attracted to you. This is why this chakra is called the third eye or the eye of intuition. The associated feelings of archetypical exploration are satisfaction, when energy is gained, and despair when energy is depleted.”

Some days I get on a roll and I don’t want to stop. I work too hard and end up exhausted.  After reading Amit’s work, I intend to recognize when my energy is getting depleted.  I will immediately stop, meditate and take my vitamin C. 

Communicating with Your Audience

Amit teaches us how to recognize signs from our body and how to restore our balance.

“This brow chakra is an important chakra for all of us because we need to be connected to our intuition.”

We are all blessed with psychic abilities, we learned that from Dean Radin in his books, and using those abilities is very important for each of us because we are connected to the universe and to each other.   

For filmmakers this is important because you need to tap into people to know what they want. 

You want to tap into what your audience likes and learn how to communicate with them. What better way to get in contact with your market and your audience then through your own intuition?

Always trust that little voice.

Building Positive Emotional Brain Circuits

Amit proposes that we need to loosen the structure of the ego by developing more authenticity as to who we are and what we’re doing. We need to understand the chakras in the body where we experience emotion and the mental thought that accompanies this.  We want to pay attention to what we feel.

He believes the science of the chakras is also very important. When doing yoga, he suggests that you need to focus on the chakra for each yoga position.  Yoga will benefit you even more when you add this newly learned behavior to your life.

All of the practices he talks about are effective to building positive emotional brain circuits.  These are good to help balance our negativity in general situations of emotional management. (Here, I think he means so that we don’t lose our cool and are able to handle a lot of stress.)

This is perfect for filmmakers who are learning to shoot with COVID-19 rules.

Imagination and Preparation

“Creativity begins,” Amit tells us, “with the stage of preparation according to creativity researchers, three “I” words play a huge role even before that: inspiration, intention and intuition. Inspiration is what we experience when, with or even without reason, the quantum self touches us, and we feel expanded.”

Amit calls this — A beginning of curiosity. 

“As we make an intention for such visits more often, it is then that we become aware of our intuitive faculty and the law of attraction: the archetypes are attracted to us. And now the word begins in the form of the four stages of creativity.  As “I” words they are imagination, aka preparation, incubation, insight, and implementation aka manifestation.”  

An Academy Award winning producer I know uses this “I” word, imagination, before each shoot day.  At night, she imagines the next morning.  She goes through everything from hearing her wind-up alarm clock along with the call from the front desk to wake her up. Then she imagines everything that should happen until she is on the set and the first shot is made. 

It is in the imagination phase that she discovers anything she may have forgotten to do or say to someone.  She catches her mistakes before they happen using her imagination. 

Grist for the Unconscious Mill of Your Mind

“Focused imagination and preparation: preparation firstly consists of catching up on existing knowledge and extending it through imagination.”  

For filmmakers, this would be doing your research using your creativity and your imagination to extend your idea and expand it to be fully creative.

He recommends that you read voraciously. Read the good books, read current materials on archetypes, read whatever you can get your hands on, and imagine, imagine, imagine. The idea is to generate new and divergent thinking, ideas that will act as fodder for the second stage of incubation which is unconscious processing.

Amit also suggests that you “listen to lectures by people of transformation, go to workshops, talk to like-minded people.  Always to generate new grist for the unconscious mill of our mind.”

Clean up the Thoughts in your Mind

He wants you to watch your mental preoccupations; if your mind is preoccupied with old stuff, clean it up.

“Clean up your unconscious,” he advises. “I am putting on a new persona to feel good about myself. So, we need to clean up our persona and eliminate inauthenticity as far as we can in our present state.”

And he recommends that we meditate.  

“Many people believe that meditation is a complicated technique to be done for hours on end, but this needn’t be the case. If you’re new to meditation start off easy, 10 to 15 minutes a day of a simple technique is enough in the beginning.”

Here is his sample meditation:

“Sit comfortably wearing comfortable clothing. Close your eyes and relax your body. Start off by paying attention to your jaw. Like almost everyone you’re likely to hold tension in this area so place your attention on relaxing your jaw.

“Then relax your belly, your shoulders, the muscles around your eyes, and allow your shoulders to drop.  Take a deep breath or two and the muscles all over your body will start to relax.  Now place your attention on the following mantra, you can coordinate the mantra with your breathing, say AUM as you breathe out and focus on staying present.

“This meditation is called concentration-meditation. It is focusing on an object. You can use your breath and focus simply on the breath or focus on a lighted candle.” 

Amit states, “The mind needs discipline while the heart needs freedom in order to explore the new. Usually we’re in the opposite situation, our mind runs freely around without control, but our heart is locked away closed to any contact with new reality.

“To change this status, we have to train the mind and bring it under control by means of practice on concentration and to learn to let the heart express freely without the mind interfering. The best way to strengthen the heart is via the exploration of love.” 

Think of some of Clint Eastwood’s films like his Oscar winning Million Dollar Baby.  That was full of love.  You left that theatre with love in your heart.  Love is contagious.

Slow Down the Mind to Hear the Thoughts in the Gap

“It is said in these spiritual traditions,” Amit writes, “that meditation appears spontaneously in the mirror of a mind that reflects a heart full of love.  The practice of concentration is relatively easy to build into a success when we love what we’re doing. If the exercises are done in a flat and boring way, without putting heart into them, success will not come easy.

“In this way the daily practice of mental concentration is very important for your health. Even if you practice a little each day the constant practice is a very important aspect of the mental training, first because the nature of the mine is to change, and this consistency in practice is helping to regain control over the mind.”    

He provides a Zen story that describes the lesson of it all.

“A student went to his meditation teacher and said, my meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible.

“It will pass, the teacher said matter of factly.

“A week later the student came back to his teacher. My meditation is wonderful I feel so aware so peaceful so alive is just wonderful.

“It will pass the teacher said matter of factly.

“And indeed, although my day-to-day experience would differ as described above with time, I found that there was more space between my thoughts, my mind was slowing down.

This is exactly what you want because, “slowing down the mind allows the information from your extrasensory perception to make itself heard.” Deepak Chopra has always said, “listen to the voice in the gap between your thoughts.”

However, when your thoughts are moving rapidly it’s hard to hear your little voice.  When you slow down your thinking, the little voice becomes easier to hear and that enhances your intuition.

I have found that the more I use my intuition the stronger it becomes and the more information I get.   

It’s as if they know I use it and then they give me more information.  I always feel like I am being guided,

I know that I am never alone. 

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

3 Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean, author of “The Art of Film Funding”, discusses her new class “How to Fund Your Film”.  Why you need a believable budget, a killer script, and a plan to capture HNI’s.

Carole Dean’s passion and mission is teaching film funding.  She found her love and calling after creating her revolutionary first business. Beginning buying left over film from studios in the 1970’s, she sold it to filmmakers at discount helping spur an explosion in independent films. Getting to know her clients, she saw how difficult it was for them to get funding. They were artists and dreamers and not savvy in raising money from investors.  So many great films, filled with incredible life-changing stories, from talented producers and directors, were going unmade and it made her mad.

 

Expert Tips on How to Fund Your Film

Carole Dean’s new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available now on Vimeo.  You can save $10 off the price until May 31st by using the code GetFunded. 

 

In 1993, she founded and is president of From the Heart Productions, a non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers find money for their films.  The organization offers film grants, film funding classes, and fiscal sponsorship for filmmakers.  Since its creation, Carole has helped guide filmmakers to raise nearly $30 million for their projects.  In 2012, she authored the best-selling “The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts”.  

Her new video class, “How to Fund Your Film”, has just been released and is now available on Vimeo on Demand. In it, Carole has created a detailed, informative, and fun course for filmmakers that lays out a step-by-step plan for funding their film.

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, Carole previewed her new class with host Claire Papin.  

Why Did You Create the How to Fund Your Film Class?

I give a lot of consultations to filmmakers. I am lucky, I love what I do. I have the greatest job in the whole world. I get to talk to filmmakers who want advice on film funding.

And one day I hung up the phone from a consultation where the woman was very pleased with what we created together. It’s always a two-way street. It’s bouncing ideas and my sharing the knowledge.  I began to realize that I have a lot of information. You know, sometimes you get used to it, but this filmmaker was shocked at the knowledge I shared.

And I thought, I really have got to get all this down. I have so many stories to tell about people who were successful by doing unique and unusual things. So, I decided to start taking all of the notes that I give to filmmakers and putting them together so I could create a new book. It really started out to help save me time. But then I realized, that there’s a lot to learn I ended up with a three hour class!

Which is the Blink of An Eye Compared to How it Takes to Make a Film

The sad news is, it’s an average six years for someone to make a documentary plus two more for marketing and distribution. So, if you knew going into a film as a documentary that it was going to take you eight years, you might think twice.

My job is to help you make it a lot faster.  I want you to know where the pitfalls are and where to put your focus. And that’s what I put in this book. The idea would be that you get finished faster.  Then, for features, it can take from 3 to 5 years and of course that’s all about finding the money.

I spent a lot of time on finding money in the class for feature makers as well as for documentaries or shorts or webisodes. It’s all the same thing. It’s raising money for your art.

Where is the Power Point?

It is on Vimeo and from the current sales I find what people do is they will watch about 20 minutes and then they’ll come back and do another 20 minutes. It is in sections to let them do as much as they want at a time. It’s all created for filmmakers with current filmmaker’s success stories.

How to Fund Your Film Has 14 Sections?

You may remember Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland said, where, where do we begin? And they said, Oh, you start at the very beginning and you’re going until the very end.

So, the very beginning of the class is when you say:  I want to make a film and it goes until the end where you have lots of information on funding, marketing and selling yourself and your film.

You Begin with Stressing the Importance of Finding the Time to Create a Film

Where will you find the time to make a film? That’s what I want you to ask yourself first.  Are you willing to put in 15 to 20 hours a week?

Because most filmmakers have a job, a usually a full time or two half time jobs and then they have their family. They have to their health. They have to take care of their health and exercise, meditate. And now you have your precious film that you want to bring into that world.

You have to make some major decisions on where to find the time. In the very beginning, we cover how to schedule your time, how to find it, what to give up. I give you suggestions, but you make the decisions.  You really want to make a commitment to creating your film.

And You Need to Make Time for All Your Rewrites

That’s the most important thing about writing. My friend Jeff, who runs The Writers Bootcamp says, when you’re finished with your script, well congratulations, but you are only 7% finished because now you have the rewrites.

I helped one man with a mystery, a thriller film, and I read 52 revisions of his script. He was very successful, he raised the money, he made his film, he won awards for it. So, it takes a total amount of focus.

You have no idea how many times you’re going to have to rewrite your script. That’s for a feature for a documentary it’s such an organic piece that you’re always rewriting it because as soon as you turn on your camera, the film takes off and it often goes in a new direction.

You Mention in Your Class a Very Clever Method to Getting a Great Final Script

I want to see a script that is a dynamite script because a good script will not make a good film. It has to be a dynamite script.

So, when you finish that script, get some coverage, get people, not your friends or family. Don’t send it to anyone you know.  Send it to a professional reader for coverage.

You can find them on Craig’s list. Please, get some honest feedback and you have to continue to do that until you really have a strong, incredibly good script because your whole future depends on the power of that script.

And it is the same with the documentary. I say put some passionate in your proposal. Because when we are judging films, we’re sitting here, reading one proposal after another for the grant.  When we hit one with passion, we jump out of our seats with joy and want to share with the rest of the judges. I want passion that jumps off the page.

You Give Advice on Why Filmmakers Need a Believable Budget

Oh my gosh, yes. That’s when everybody freaks out, but the whole secret is that it must be believable. You want a believable budget.

And for the grant I get a lot of budgets that are even numbers and I know they’re guesstimates and I will accept them, but I don’t know about other grantors. I think that for your own self being and the peace of mind, you really need to know what your budget is.

And You Tell Them How to Get One

So, I have put in How to Fund Your Film Class people to call people that are donors to our Roy W. Dean Grants. I recommended David Raiklen for music,  Sam Dlugach for color, Jerry Deaton for sound and more people for the New York area.

These people are exceptionally talented, and their prices are reasonable. And they love documentary filmmakers and independent filmmakers.  Especially ones that come through From the Heart Productions.  

And that’s what you want, is you want someone who will love your film and take on the same passion you have for it.  And that I’ve seen that happen with all three of these people with sound, color, music and more. You always want to put a brilliant team together.

And, and I’ve explained to how to do that.  To get a believable budget, you really need to call people and say, here’s what I’m doing and what do you think this will cost?  Give me an estimate. And I know that,  as I get closer, I can get to the penny.

You want to get a believable number because you never know when you’re going to get in an office or at a luncheon with some person who says, well, really how much you need?

And you can say $56,000 is what I need on my budget and bring up the budget on your phone and say, here it is. And you can defend every line.

You’ve Also Mentioned the Importance of Networking for HNI, High Net Worth Individuals

Well, this is the next phase. You get your believable budget, your incredible script, your killer script and your brilliant outline impeccably done for your documentary or short or webisode. And you have the pitch, the proposal, the paperwork. Now what are you going to do?

Well, you’ve got to get out on the street and meet some wealthy people. And so how do you do that? Well, you’ve got to become part of their world.  So, you want to identify community organizations where wealthy people could belong.

And many of these organizations offer a low-priced membership that you could afford. And yes, they have some gala events, but that may be worth it at the end of the year.

But the main thing is that if you join and you really put in some time and give of yourself to that organization, let’s say that it was a for the humane society, that’s something that simple.

You might be walking dogs right alongside of someone who’s worth a couple of a billion dollars!

Carole Dean’s class “How to Fund Your Film” is now available on Vimeo on Demand.  You can save 10% if purchased by May 31st by using code GetFunded

Why You Need a Covid-19 Film Production Plan for Fundraising

The biggest challenge filmmakers have now in getting money for their project is proving to investors that they can make or finish a film during a pandemic

By Richard Kaufman – Guest Contributor

Your film investor is reaching for their Amex card after you’ve made your brilliant Zoom meeting pitch for your dream film project.  They like your experience, your passion, your story, but they are asking themselves what everyone asks who ever thought of giving money to a privately financed independent film project.

“Is this film ever going to get made?”

Covid-19 Film Production Plan

Will you be able to make sure everyone on set wears a mask?

In Spring 2020, that question has a new ominous twist fear behind it.  We are in the middle of a health crisis that has put a hold on all our lives and filmmaking.  Virtually no projects are being produced right now.  No one is sure when anyone will start filming again. 

Covid-19 Film Production Plan

Which is why, when you fund raise now for you film, you need Covid-19 Film Production Plan for investors and donors. 

You need to be able to show anyone who is willing to give money to you for your feature, documentary, short film or web series that it will get produced and completed.  If not soon, then sometime in the near future.  

This plan, or least the mention of it, should go in all fundraising materials, crowdfunding pages, and in your pitch. 

Pandemic Precautions May Last 4 Years

In a study published in the journal Science , researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have warned that, in the absence of a vaccine or an effective treatment of the coronavirus, social-distancing measures may be required through to 2022.  It’s possible, they say, that we may need do this until 2024.

If you’ve made a movie, you know that social distancing on a set will be a challenge.  Your investors and donors know how hard that is to accomplish social distancing in their daily live when take walks or navigate supermarket produces aisles avoiding others grabbing for the same avocados.  They also know they’ve not been back to work as the places of business may not be able to accommodate social distancing or other requirements needed for employees to stay healthy.

What will make your business, your film project, different.  How can everyone on it go to work, not become ill, and get it finished?    What steps will you take to insure everyone stays healthy?

Do Your Research

Fortunately, the entertainment business is filled with creative minds sharing ideas to get production started.   There are many plans and proposals circulating from producers, directors, and unions. 

Variety Magazine recently wrote about how Producers Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Chris Ferguson — from the companies Automatik (“Honey Boy,” “Bad Education”) and Oddfellows (“Child’s Play”), respectively — have created a proposal titled “Isolation Based Production Plan.”

In their proposal, they raise issues that you will should think about address in production of making your film.

  • Quarantining Cast and Crew – The entire cast and crew would be in a two-week quarantine before they would begin production, and would be tested.
  • Quarantining Costumes, Props and Sets – Locations and sets would be dressed, and then sealed for three days (or whatever the most conservative estimate is) “to allow viruses on surfaces to die.”
  • Limited Hair and Make-Up Contact – Instead of working on multiple actors at once, the proposal suggests there would be a single person working on one actor at a time — and not on set. “Makeup application tools & supplies will be purchased per cast member and used only on that individual cast member.”

An article in Deadline called Reopening Hollywood, brought up other areas that need to be addressed including:

  • No More Cafeteria Style Craft Service Meals – Meals will only be doled out in single-serving pre-wrapped fashion. There will be no shared utensils. Lunch breaks will have to be staggered, to cut down on density.
  • Protecting Talent and Directors on Set – Below the line personnel coming into contact with actors or directors will have to wear masks and gloves at all times.
  • Eliminating Extras and Day Players – Perhaps cut out crowd scenes or if necessary, use green screen.

More Guidelines and Covid-19 Film Production Ideas

Production safety protocol suggestions from studios, trade groups, and film commissions.

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Office at Netflix, offered his thoughts on How film and television production can safely resume in a COVID-19 world.

The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) just issued their department specific production guidelines.

Film Florida released a list of detailed recommendations for safe sets.

Independent film crew members discuss what is on their wish list for a healthy and safe film set in Indiewire

What Covid-19 Film Production Plan Works Best for Your Film

The Covid-19 situation and what we know about the disease changes daily.  The production needs for every project is different as well.  Some require locations and some sound stages.  Maybe on your project, the director and DIT can work remotely. 

Whatever you feel is necessary to make your film under current conditions, write it down.  Modify your script if necessary, to accommodate safe working conditions. 

Let your investors and donors know that you have a plan.

 

How Indie Filmmakers Can Survive California’s AB-5 Labor Law

The New Law Disrupts How Non-Union Cast and Crew Are Employed.  We Invited An Expert to Answer Questions from Filmmakers on Navigating the Changes.

by Carole Dean

Veteran entertainment attorney Mark Litwack’s practice includes work in the areas of copyright, trademark, contract, multimedia law, intellectual property and book publishing. As a producer’s representative, he assists filmmakers in arranging financing, marketing, and distribution of their films.

AB-5

Your Freelance Crew on Your Film Are Now Your Employees

Mark has packaged movie projects and served as executive producer on many feature films. He has provided legal services or worked as a producer rep on more than 200 feature film. He’s the author of six books that are all invaluable for filmmakers.  Mark has been a generous donor to the Roy Dean Film Grant for years.

I invited him on my The Art of Film Funding Podcast to help us understand the recently enacted California Assembly Bill AB-5.  The bill went into effect January 1st, 2020 and will impact the employment status for many on nonunion film productions.  It will restrict the use of 1099’s.  Employers are now required to use what is called the ABC test to determine if an employee should be classified as an independent contractor.

Here are the edited highlights:

Can you give us some background and overview of the new law, please?

The California legislature passed this law to codify the principles of a recent 2018 court decision that’s referred to as the Dynamex case in which the Supreme court revised the prior test called Barrello for determining which workers are considered employees and which should be considered independent contractors.

The reason for this new law was to stop some labor practices that were considered abusive.  Namely companies in the gig economy like Uber and Lyft who would hire drivers as independent contractors then deny them benefits that employees have, such as a minimum wage, overtime, rest breaks. In addition, employees compared to independent contractors have the right to form a union.  Independent contractors must pay all the social security and Medicare costs.  They are also not eligible for unemployment insurance.

Basically AB-5 creates an assumption for employers. Consider all workers as employees, unless the employer can prove the worker’s role is an independent contractor according to the state’s new criteria.

Most independent filmmakers, if they wanted to play it safe, would hire a payroll company and pay most, if not everyone, as an employee to avoid any potential penalties. The prior law SB -459, enhanced the penalty for employers who misclassify personnel penalties range from $5,000 to $15,000 per violation.  Where there was a pattern or practice of violations, the penalty could increase from $10,000 to $25,000 per violation.

My guess is there’s an awful lot of independent filmmakers with people they hired as independent contractors when they should have been employees.  It just never surfaced or came to light.

Much of the change has to do with government wanting to make sure taxes get collected.

The government is more likely to receive taxes if they were automatically taken out of an employee’s paycheck than if the gross amount is paid to an independent contractor. That’s why the IRS takes the position that, for most people working on film production, they should be classified as employees, not independent contractors.

They obviously want taxes withheld. If the person is being employed through a loan out company, then the loan out company will withhold taxes. This should not pose a problem for the producer. Moreover, if the person is being hired, not just for their time but, but also equipment is being supplied, it is more likely to pass muster as an independent contractor. But simply calling a person you hire an independent contractor or using an independent contractor form of contract does not by itself give you much protection.

How do you decide who is an employee and not an independent contractor?

In determining whether or not an individual is providing service as an independent contractor or an employee, it can be basically distilled down to what’s called a control test. Simply put, an employee is an individual who the employer has the right to exercise control over the manner and the means by which they perform their services.  An independent contractor is sort of being hired for the end result.

So, if you hired a painting company to come and paint your house, they show up at your house.  You will often supply the paint, although you often get to choose the color.  They supplied the ladders, they supply the equipment, they supply the painters, and they paint your house. And maybe it takes a week and then they leave. And you, the homeowner, you’re not in the painting business and you can just pay them as an independent contractor. They’re in the painting business and that painting company, if they hire people, you know who worked for them, those people should be classified as employees.

So, in a movie, the director pretty much controls how everyone on the set does their job. Actors can’t change their role. They can’t decide when they want to show up. Everything is tightly, should be tightly choreographed, otherwise, you know, the shoot is going to be a disaster.

Exactly. Let’s go over that ABC test. Can you tell us what that is?

The ABC test requires that the hiring entity establish each of the following three factors to classify workers as independent contractors.

The first is “A”, that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work.   

“B” is that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity, the employer’s business.

“C” is that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

This new law creates specific exceptions and says the law can be applied somewhat retroactively. The exceptions fall into several different categories. (There are) certain exempt occupations, contracts for certain professional services, specific businesses, certain business to business contracting relationships…

But there is no specific exemption for filmmakers or those who work in film or television.

 

 

We’re still out here trying to figure out how to work within these laws. Most of my questions I’ve taken from filmmakers and I so appreciate your helping us to get clarity on this. One filmmaker asks, how does AB-5 affect non-union films?

It affects both union and nonunion films, but union productions already pay 95% of their workers as employees, not as independent contractors. And for this reason, unions believe that this law does not affect them. The unions have also said that they don’t think this law affects using loan out companies, but some attorneys are not so sure. For nonunion employees who were paid as independent contractors, the employer can be liable. The filmmaker can be liable if they are misclassified.

The safest thing to do, frankly, is to hire a payroll company. And let the payroll company deduct taxes and social security.

Some of the filmmakers are wondering should they create their own loan out company like create an LLC or an S Corp or even a single member LLC. If they decided they wanted to become a loan out company, what would you suggest they consider? Which type of a corporation?

What are we talking about crew now? People being hired? Yes. Well, it appears that they can.  They can set up a separate loan out company, which is considered a separate legal entity from them personally. And the purpose of loan out companies is basically to save on taxes.

When an actor sets up a loan out company, they usually own it 100%. When they get hired by a studio, they say to the studio instead of hiring me directly as an employee, I want you to contract through my loan out company for my services. So, the studio enters into a contract with the loan out company, which is 100% controlled by the artist. They also get the artist to sign what’s called an inducement agreement which binds the artists directly to the obligations.  The studio can pay a flat fee to the loan out company.  The loan out company hires you and pays you. But, the loan out company is your employer. They are the ones who should be deducting and paying taxes.

A lot of people want to, if they’re in the business, they want to set up a corporation or an LLC.  That gives them some insulation.  Because if things go bad, you could find yourself in a lawsuit.  As a sole proprietorship, even if you founded it as DBA.  A DBA is just a fictitious business name. It doesn’t give you any legal protections at all.

Let’s talk about labor versus gear rental fees. For freelance cinematographers, can they receive a 1099 for their gear rental and a W2 for labor on the same job?

Yes, they can. When you rent equipment, you’re not hiring someone. There’s no employment relationship there because you’re not hiring someone.  These rules about whether you’re an independent contractor or an employee have to do with hiring people to provide services. When you’re renting equipment that’s totally different.

Right. Okay. Got it. Part of the law says collaborating with the same people often could demonstrate that you are dependent on that one job and therefore an employee. What if you’re working as an adviser and most of your work is for one company?  But you have no call time and you can work when you set appointments. How would you classify this?

Well, this is gray areas here. And you know, one of the problems with this whole scheme of treating employees and independent contractors differently is it’s not always crystal clear whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor.  They could fall within this gray area where it’s not so clear.  So, there’s dangers.

My advice is if you’re concerned about being fined the safest thing to do is to hire them through a payroll company. Hire them as an employee and have taxes deducted. There’s no risks for that. It’s only if you hire someone who’s deemed an employee and you pay them as an independent contractor then you have some risk.

So, it’s much cheaper for you to just abide by the law until it’s amended to include the film industry or new laws are made. The safest thing you can do financially is to either start the loan out company or just hire a payroll company.

Right.  And by the way, those penalties are for violating the law.  There could be additional penalties. For instance, if you hired someone as an independent contractor and they should have been employees and they also worked a lot of overtime.  Now, you might also be liable for violating the overtime statute. So yeah, there could be a whole, a whole bunch of potential problems.

Oh my gosh. A letter I received said an option to consider is hire an entertainment law firm. If you’re a producer that has employment contracts in place drafted after 2020, you could potentially be subjected to tax penalties and lawsuits by both city and state of California. Does this mean that even if you have contracts in place, you could be fined if you were paid wrong?

Yes. When the courts look at a contract, if the contract says this is a contract for the sale of a duck, but it’s obvious what you bought instead was the chicken. The court’s not going to be fooled. you know? So, if you say this person is an independent contractor just because the contract says this person is an independent contractor, then it doesn’t make right.

If they should have been an employee, the contract’s not going to fool anyone. I’m not sure most independent filmmakers need to hire an entertainment law firm specifically for this. I would say hire a payroll company. 

If you hire a payroll company, you will probably be okay because this is exactly what the payroll company has expertise in.

If you’re uncertain about what to do, you can hire an attorney. But my guess is that most of the time, if you just had a payroll company that would solve the problem.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits